Exercise is a key part of healthy living, write Dr Esther Lau and Professor Lisa Nissen

We all know exercise is good for us. However, for many of us, getting motivated or finding any time to do any exercise just doesn’t come easily.

In fact, one in two Australians do not participate in sufficient physical activity. Worryingly, 80% of children and young people do not meet physical activity recommendations. Sedentary lifestyles are a major risk factor for many chronic conditions e.g. cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis.

Encouraging regular physical activity, together with a healthy diet are important factors for people to maintain a healthy weight, and preventing and managing chronic illnesses.

The Australian Physical Activity Guidelines recommend different amounts and intensity of activities for different age groups, ranging from young people (5-17 years of age), to adults (18-64 years of age), and older people (65+ years of age).

For most adults (18-64 years of age), it is recommended that they:

  • are active on most, preferably all, days every week;
  • accumulate 150 to 300 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous intensity physical activity, or an equivalent combination of both moderate and vigorous activities, each week;
  • do muscle-strengthening activities on at least two days each week;
  • minimise the amount of time spent in prolonged sitting; and
  • break up long periods of sitting as often as possible.

Moderate exercise describes activity that causes a moderate increase in heart rate or breathing. An indication of this would be:

  • breathing quickens, but you are not out of breath;
  • develop light sweat after about 10 minutes of activity; and
  • can carry on a conversation, but you can’t sing.

Vigorous exercise describes activity that causes a large increase in heart rate or breathing. An indication of this would be:

  • breathing is deep and rapid;
  • develop a sweat after only a few minutes of activity; and
  • cannot say more than a few words without pausing for breath.

Some people with chronic conditions e.g. heart failure, COPD will not be able to tolerate the same levels of physical activity, and pharmacists are well placed to refer patients to allied health professionals who can assist with appropriate exercise regimens.

Exercising is easier said than done, but starting with something is better than nothing!

Dr Esther Lau and Prof Lisa Nissen are from the School of Clinical Sciences, Queensland University of Technology.